Many beaches in Orange and Los Angeles counties received high ratings for cleanliness from the Heal the Bay Environmental group, but Doheny and Poche beaches are still some of the nastiest in California, according to ratings released this week.
Statewide, only 3 percent of testing sites across California earned grades of D or F in Heal the Bay's 2013 Beach Report Card. But Los Angeles and Orange county beaches were still featured prominently on the Top 10 Beach Bummers list included in the report, including Doheny State Beach in Dana Point and Poche Beach in Orange County.
Poche Beach has been the focus of intense cleanup efforts. It's the site of a multi-million dollar stormwater treatment plant, and a falconer was hired to chase away the sea birds partly implicated in creating the nasty coastal environment.
Testing for bacteria and other pollutants regularly happens at 445 beaches statewide, and 93 percent earned grades of A or B during summer 2012. That's one percent better than the previous year, according to the Los Angeles- based environmental agency.
In Los Angeles County, 84 percent of beaches received summertime grades of A or B, a 2 percent improvement over last year's report, according to Heal the Bay.
Seven L.A. County beaches made the group's "Honor Roll'' for earning a perfect A+ during all three testing periods.
"We are heartened by numerous individual beach success stories, but extremely dry weather is likely masking the severity of stormwater pollution,'' Kirsten James, Heal the Bay's science and policy director, said.
Orange County beaches did well in the annual survey, with 95 of 102 testing spots being given an A or B during the summer.
High bacteria counts are linked to illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections and skin rashes.
Heal the Bay attributed the slightly improved water quality to infrastructure improvements aimed at stopping bacterial pollution, such as the diversion of ocean-bound storm water to sewage treatment plants during dry periods, but the biggest factor may be the low amount of rainfall received over the past two winters.
Much of the pollution detected in Southern California surf zones is flushed out of storm drains during downpours.